Interacting for Intimacy


There are two distinct views on technology and the impact it is having on human interaction. Some say that our dependency on devices is stunting our ability to communicate and create meaningful relationships. Others are convinced that technology has given individuals a voice and opened-up lines of communication previously exclusive to an elite class.

In an article published in the Journal of Evolution and Technology (2008), Alessandro Tomasi from the University of Rhode Island writes that “With total familiarity, technological objects recede into the background of consciousness and become nothing but extensions of our body.” In recent years, development in design and materials has fast tracked this reality. The result being that many people use personal devices, like smart phones, to communicate, see, memorize and hear, and often treating the object their like an additional appendage. The result is a hot wiring from an external object to the brain.

Advertising is one industry that has been quick to adopt new technology and as a result been delivering new and innovative experiences to consumers. The adoption of augmented reality, QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) is not only making ideas come to life in surprising ways, but also challenging the notion of what is possible in the field of marketing. What’s interesting is not just the types of interactive experiences enabled through technology, but how technology is being used to magnify the feelings of Intimacy that consumers feel with brands.

Two recently launched holiday campaigns by Starbucks and JCPenney (see videos below) are good examples of how technology can be used to build feelings of empathy, commitment and warmth. For a limited time, you can now interact with a Starbucks cup or a package of their coffee, and it’s not just information that you’re getting but characters, stories and sisomo (sight, sound and motion). The same goes with JCPenney’s Santa Tags, which allows you to record a voice message on QR code gift tags distributed by the American retailer. You can greet the recipient of your gift even if you are miles away. It’s a double shot of love – it’s not just the brand or the product, but the packaging too.

Starbucks ‘Cup Magic’

JCPenney ‘Santa Tags’